Managing European cormorant-fisheries conflicts: problems, practicalities and policy


Correspondence: David Carss, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian, EH26 0QB, UK (email:


This article focuses on transboundary conflicts between great cormorants, Phalacrocorax carbo L., and European fisheries interests. Two races of this species commonly occur in Europe; the ‘Atlantic’ Phalacrocorax carbo carbo and the ‘Continental’ P. c. sinensis. This migratory fish-eating bird has steadily expanded its European range and many consider this a nature conservation success. However, fishery representatives see the birds as harmful to their business and way of life, considering European Union (EU) legislation to be blocking the most intuitive and effective solution to the cormorant problem, namely co-ordinated, pan-European population reduction. This article argues that cormorant-fisheries conflicts and their resolution and management cannot be characterised as, or reduced to, a simplistic ‘pan-European’ vs ‘local’ argument. The nature of cormorant-fisheries conflicts is explored, key issues of cormorant ecology examined, and consideration is given to how impacts on fisheries might be measured. Discussions then focus on whether current policy prevents balanced and constructive solutions or whether better use of available instruments at local-national levels could actually be a vital step to a sustainable management solution.